Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Democracy Now: exclusive interview with Aristide; Bob Somerby, Matthew Rothschild, Ruth Conniff, John Conyers Jr., Rob Reiner

Democracy Now! (Marcia: "always worth watching"):

Headlines for May 10, 2005
- Marines Launch Large Offensive in Western Iraq
- CIA Retains Control Of Iraq's Intelligence Service
- U.S. To Spend $50M On Prison Expansion in Iraq
- New Questions Raised About UN Nominee John Bolton
- Mexico City Mayor Officially Announces Presidential Candidacy
- Gov't Drops Cases of 16-Year-Old "Would-Be Suicide Bombers"

National Broadcast Exclusive: Ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide Speaks From Exile
In a Democracy Now national broadcast exclusive, we spend the hour with ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Fourteen months ago, Aristide was flown to the Central African Republic in what he called a modern-day kidnapping in the service of a coup d'etat backed by the United States. Two weeks after his ouster, he defied Washington and returned to the Caribbean accompanied by a delegation of U.S. and Jamaican lawmakers. Aristide was eventually granted asylum in South Africa, where he now lives.
In the first extended interview in this country since his exile, we speak with President Aristide about the ailing former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, whether he will return to Haiti, the continuation of the "black holocaust" and much more. [includes rush transcript - partial]

Billie e-mails to note Bob Somerby's latest The Daily Howler. Billie notes that Somerby is addressing several issues but "it boils down to the responsibility of the press." (Somerby also notes that Ann Coulter will be on The Tonight Show tonight -- the mainstreaming of Ann continues.) Billie also says she has no idea what to recommend for an excerpt. Me neither, so we'll just go with the start of the piece:

FOR INFORMATION, READ THE OPINIONS: Omigod! In today's New York Times, readers actually get some basic info about judicial filibusters. Here is the passage in question:
NEW YORK TIMES (5/10/05):
Since 1789, the Senate has rejected nearly 20 percent of all nominees to the Supreme Court, many without an up-or-down vote.
In 1968 Republican senators used a filibuster to block voting on President Lyndon B. Johnson's nominee for chief justice of the Supreme Court. During the debate, a Republican senator, Robert Griffin, said: "It is important to realize that it has not been unusual for the Senate to indicate its lack of approval for a nomination by just making sure that it never came to a vote on the merits. As I said, 21 nominations to the [Supreme] court have failed to win Senate approval. But only nine of that number were rejected on a direct, up-and-down vote."
Between 1968 and 2001, both parties used filibusters to oppose judicial nominees. In 2000, the last year of Bill Clinton's presidency, Republican senators filibustered two of his nominees to be circuit judges. They also prevented Senate votes on more than 60 of Mr. Clinton's judicial nominees by other means.
Interesting! And which intrepid Times reporter passed on this relevant information? Actually, this didn't appear in a news report; it comes from an op-ed column by George Mitchell, former Dem Senate leader. Mitchell's column continues a practice we have often mentioned before. At the Washington Post and the New York Times, you increasingly have to read the editorials or the op-ed columns to get basic information about the basic events of the day.
Why is Mitchell's (slightly-spun) info so relevant? All over cable, all over talk radio, the usual dissemblers have been telling the public that--well, let's listen in on Michael Reagan, disinforming on Hannity & Colmes:
REAGAN (4/13/05):
No, it hasn't happened any time before in history. This is the first time in history that a filibuster is being used against nominees.Yes, use the filibuster against legislation. It always has been used against legislation. That's a good place to have it. But against nominees is wrong...What's going on is strictly politics.
"This is the first time in history that a filibuster is being used against nominees." Uh-oh! As Mitchell's piece makes clear, that just wasn't true. But so what? All over cable, all over talk radio, the public has actively been disinformed about this matter.

Keesha e-mails to note Matthew Rothschild's "This Just In" entitled "Bush Sells a Lemon at Nissan Factory:"

So there was Bush, out on the hustings at a Nissan factory in Canton, Mississippi, trying to sell his lemon of a Social Security plan to workers he's planning on shafting.
His scheme would reduce guaranteed benefits to all but the poorest people in the country.
For those with decent working class jobs in auto factories, the pain would be severe. Someone on the line at the Nissan factory who is making $36,600 will lose 16 percent of Social Security retirement benefits.
That worker's child, if he or she made the median wage and retired in 2075, would see a 28 percent cut in benefits.
For higher wage earners at the plant, the bite would be even greater. A worker making $58,500 who retires forty years from now would lose 25 percent. That worker's child, making the same wage, would face a 42 percent shortfall.
And if you throw in Bush's privatization plan on top of these cuts, the benefit cuts would be even more dramatic. A median wage earner who retires in 2055 would lose 66 percent of guaranteed benefits, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (
www.cbpp.org). The worker making $58,500 would lose 87 percent.

We'll stay with The Progressive (Rothschild's editor of The Progressive) to note Ruth Conniff's Mondays blog. Wally e-mailed to highlight her latest entry is entitled "The Raving Right:"

Pity the rightwing intellectuals. After years of cultivating an attitude of smug contrarianism during the Clinton years, sneering from the sidelines, they now have to stick up for their team as it wields power. And what a team it is. Between the mess in Iraq, the sagging economy, oil prices, Terri Schiavo, Justice Sunday and Tom DeLay, it's hard to put a good face--let alone a superior one--on the Republican program.
But someone has to do it.

Thus, in his Sunday op-ed column in the New York Times, an uncharacteristically peevish David Brooks slams liberals for not getting on board with Bush's Social Security plan.Brooks attacks Bush's critics for demagoguery. "Sometimes you had to walk through Democratic precincts in a gas mask, the lofty rhetoric was so thick. But now we have definitive proof that they didn't mean it. It was all hokum," writes Brooks.
Brooks's "proof" is that liberals won't acknowledge the merit of Bush's "redistributive" plan to index Social Security benefits to wages--so people who make more money absorb the proposed benefit cuts, while the poor, presumably, get more. Never mind that Social Security was specifically designed to withstand the kind of assault that brought down AFDC precisely because all Americans feel they have a stake in the program. Brooks surely knows this bit of history, but he chooses to ignore it.

From The Black Commentator, Cedric e-mails to note John Conyers, Jr.'s "51% Is Not A Mandate Especially When All the Votes Were Not Counted:"

The mainstream media seems to be waking up to the idea that all of the post-election talk about a mandate was just that: talk. Under the understated headline, "Doubts About Mandate for Bush, GOP," the Washington Post reports that the President's poll numbers are plummeting, his social security privatization plan and cuts are unpopular, and Congressional Republicans are abusing their power and are, likewise, very unpopular. They conclude that maybe there was never a mandate after all. In other words, they conclude "the main question facing Bush and his party is whether they misread the November elections."

Elaine e-mails to note The Huffington Post. Elaine wanted to note Rob Reiner's "Where Have You Gone Woodward & Bernstein?" Here's an excerpt:

Just yesterday, I was in the midst of a rant about the abysmal state of education funding in this country when a friend rejoined, "We get the government we deserve."
I have been fighting this toxic mixture of superiority and cynicism since I became involved in the child advocacy movement almost 11 years ago. The truth is, when Americans are treated with respect and receive accurate information, they make wonderfully wise decisions. The system breaks down, however, when the press fails to provide such information, as they do today. The so-called fourth estate is now little more than the public relations arm of a government propaganda machine in which all three branches are controlled by the same political party. Who is watching the store?
In some ways, the mass media are all of our surrogates for the truth – they are our eyes and ears. In days gone by, they were just that. To take but one example, the Washington Post famously risked their entire existence when they pursued a story about a suspicious break-in long after everyone else believed the story was dead. Would they make the same tough decisions today? Would any media outlet? Certainly not if there was a government-issued Video News Release handy.

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